JOHN DAY - After transforming Winner's Choice Custom Bowstrings from a part-time business stationed in a cleaned out garage into a multi-million-dollar industry giant, owners Mike and Carrie Slinkard decided to take a risk and widen the playing field.
And it paid off.
"Our newest venture is an electric pop-up and moving target system," said Mike Slinkard. "Our goal is to make our systems as common as 3-D products."
Mike and Carrie, with the help of then Winner's Choice employee Mark Brown, decided to launch Motion Targets LCC, a brother company to Winner's Choice, in 2006 while at an Archery and Trade Association Show in Atlanta, Ga.
"We were having dinner with friends one night and we got to talking about moving target systems. There aren't currently any all-electric systems out there, and someone asked who would start that type of business," said Brown, now general manager of Motion Targets. "Mike just looked over at me and smiled."
Slinkard and Brown spent the next three days at the show talking "non-stop" to other archers about the possibility of a new system.
"I think if we would have had them at the show, we could have sold at least 10 systems," said Brown.
By the time Slinkard and Brown returned back to John Day, the system was already designed. With a new building, paid for by the Southeast Regional Alliance, completed last December, Motion Targets and its three employees started manufacturing the high-tech systems.
"Without that grant, we really couldn't have a building for Motion Targets," said Slinkard. "We got the grant because we create jobs in the area."
Brown and Slinkard hope that the system will appeal to archers across the globe because of its reliability and accessibility to everyone.
"It was designed to be portable, and electric was the only way to go because the systems out there right now are just too cumbersome," said Slinkard. "Most of the systems out there right now are air-compressed and home-made, and they're just not practical for shooters."
Motion Targets' innovative system is now the only archery system in the industry that runs on electricity. A single 110-volt plug-in powers the entire nine- target simulated hunt.
The brain of the system is a computerized, touch-screen box manufactured in Boise which allows the user to select from four different shooting levels - youth, beginner, advanced, and pro - and up to 450 possible moving and stationary shooting scenarios from the nine targets.
"We really have a scenario for every skill level," said Slinkard. "You don't have to be a professional to use our systems."
"This is something we'll continue to evolve," added Brown. "Once we get more exposure, the sky will be the limit."
So far, Slinkard says that archers who have used Motion Targets' systems have raved about them, and he believes the company will continue to expand as word of their arrival spreads, and they get more publicity.
The company got its first appearance on a national stage when its system was featured in Fan Fair's archery tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Country music stars Andry Griggs, Neal Thrasher, Rusty Tabor, and Blake Shelton all shot arrows at Motion Targets' new invention on June 7.
Currently, they've sold 16 systems across the country, and on June 26, Slinkard signed a 10-year contract with the Hunting Simulation Organization (HSO), making it the official system of its shooting competitions. It will be used at HSO's World Finals at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind., next January.
"We made the deal with them (Motion Targets) because they're a great company, they're innovators, and they really put out a quality product," said HSO President Karen Demaris. "And they really offer a one-of-a-kind system."
And if its new archery system wasn't enough, Motion Targets plans to introduce rifle systems within the next year, a market Slinkard believes to have endless possibilities.
"That's the next logical step and I think those actually have the potential to be more successful ," he said. "We would have to tweak them a little bit because it's a different sport, but I hope to have them up and running sometime in 2008."
For now, Slinkard plans on investing more money into advertising the system, and it will be part of the Winner's Choice hunting DVD, available this fall in GI Joe's and other outdoor retailers.
"We could also get into designing shooting systems for police training and paramilitary operations," he said. "But we've honestly got our hands full right now."
If success with Winner's Choice and Motion Targets is any indication, the possibilities are endless.